Core Writer Mat Smart is at the Playwrights’ Center this week, workshopping his new play Every Three Hundredth Night with director Cláudia Nascimento and actors Nora Montañez Patterson, Juan Rivera Lebron*, Bradley Hildebrandt, Emily Gunyou Halaas*, and Cristina Castro (*Member of Actors' Equity). In the play, when a new volunteer arrives to an organic farm in Mendoza, Argentina, an unstable peace collapses into blood and song. Learn more about Mat in this short interview:
Every Three Hundredth Night is based on your time working on a farm in Argentina. What was that like?
It was a wonderful and intense experience. It was startlingly beautiful there, but also it was back-breaking manual labor. It was great coexisting with the farm animals, but also sometimes we’d find a duckling 500 feet from the pen with its head missing. There is a menace to the animal world that I hadn’t ever lived side by side with before.
Why do you write plays?
To try to see with eyes that are not my own.
What do you do when you’re stuck on something you’re writing?
Take a walk. Check CNN. Call my sister. Check the Cubs score. Check Facebook. Look at paintings. Question every choice I’ve made that led me here. But I think the biggest thing—in what’s happening now politically—is to ask: why is this play necessary? How can this story be a productive part of the resistance? If you can answer those things, you can get through any writer’s block.
You’ve taught a number of classes at the PWC. How does teaching influenced you as a writer?
I love teaching playwriting because I think writing a play is one of the best ways to deal with what we’re dealing with—to ask questions we don’t know the answer to. It can be a tool to help us cope with the chaos and heartbreak in our lives. And that is useful to everyone. So it feels meaningful to get into all that with a group of strangers in a class, who—by the end—feel quite close.
What was the hardest thing about writing your last play?
Making blood and brutality funny.
You’re a big sports fan. Does the way you think about sports influence the way you think about plays and playwriting?
I love how you can watch a three-hour baseball game and the outcome is decided by one or two moments. Our lives can be like that. Plays are usually like that.
How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?
I don’t really. It kind of has taken over everything recently. I wish I could learn how to write a play without letting the rest of my life go kaput. I so admire my playwright friends with kids. I don’t know how they do it.